A Quest for Power: Unrestricting Vintage
Posted on Aug. 18, 2020, 12:33 p.m. by Oof_Magic
I have spent the past few months toying around with the most powerful tools in all of Magic on a quest to find the most broken constructed deck possible. Essentially ramping Vintage up by removing the Restricted List. And so, amidst a sea of new format ideas, I bring a simple one. Vintage but Unrestricted. That’s it. No change to minimum or maximum deck size, no ‘commander/commander spell’, no new zone, nothing you aren’t already familiar with if you play constructed.
• No more than a play set of non basic lands unless a card says otherwise like Relentless Rats .
• All banned non-companions are still banned. So no dexterity cards or Sharazad nonsense (although Sharazad is probably safe). No command zone cards or conspiracy nonsense.
• All restrictions are lifted. Yes. All of them. This is meant to be the most unforgiving format. Know what you’re signing up for.
• Only scribbled basic lands count as official cards of the format. This is really just a fun guideline and not a hard rule. But who’s packing this type of heat and carrying it around. Ensure yourself with Basics Ensurance!!
I will get this out of the way quick. This is not meant to be a balanced or healthy format. This is an experiment to see how unbalanced the format is when you drop the weight of the Restricted List. Is it as unbalanced as might be assumed?
It certainly will be a coin-flip format. This sounds in bad taste but I play plenty of other games that operate on chance and I love Magic. Magic has classically blended randomness and probability with skill and intuition. Personally, I think there could be a space for a real competitive environment.
The folder below contains my experiments. You’ll see a wide array of decks. While many may focus on combo, the prison decks are not to be underestimated. In my opinion, they are the dominating force. And they are a big door in for diversity. So if you can swallow the inherent craziness that comes with such power, I think you’ll find that an Unrestricted Vintage may have far more diversity than one might initially think. The real question is whether people can get behind the coin-flip nature of the format. While it doesn’t always play out that way (as Leyline of Anticipation has made itself a pivotal player of the format), games are often decided by two things: 1) coin-flip, 2) matchup. But it can actually get more complicated than that. My wheel decks have a nasty habit of putting counters in the opponent’s hand. Just one example of how games are more nuanced than at first glance (unless you’re glancing at Stax).
Please feel free to come explore my own lists and offer any input. Most of the comments on my decks talk about the price which is why I put the fun ‘Basics Ensurance!’ rule. I want to talk decks and meta. I already know these decks are ridiculous on a wallet. So let’s talk about what we don’t know instead. Like what’s the most powerful deck possible in the context of a meta to play it in. Please share your thoughts on mine and please please please feel free to offer your own ideas. Magic has taught me that a community will root out problems faster than an individual. So join me on my quest for power as we search for The Most Broken Constructions!
I have so far found much experimenting to be needed. I have run into a promising diversity so far. I’ve seen Paradoxical Outcome in many variations. Most interestingly was a build that used Monastery Mentor and Time Walk to get around Leyline of Sanctity . I’ve run into Tinker / Bolas's Citadel builds. I’ve seen Blightsteel Colossus in control shells and hasty combo shells. I’ve seen Stax. I’ve used enchantment and D&T shells to success. I’ve seen Dredge. I’ve seen a very midrangey U/G build with Oko, Thief of Crowns , Collector Ouphe s, and True-Name Nemesis to tempo opponents. I’ve done Storm centered on Timetwister , Second Sunrise , Underworld Breach , Yawgmoth's Will independently. I’ve caught players by surprise with Mind Funeral and then been totally mismatched against a fair deck. I saw a clever take on burn capitalizing on Pyrostatic Pillar and Eidolon of the Great Revel alongside all the most efficient burn including the extra potent Galvanic Blast . I’ve seen Arcbound Ravager aggro. I’ve seen Flash / Protean Hulk in a couple different forms. I’m still waiting for a solid Doomsday deck to form.
This is my rough view of the meta as it stands: • Stax • D&T • Shops Aggro • Enchantment Prison • U/G Mid • Storm (in a dozen forms which is best being meta dependent) • Colossus • U/B Mill • Flash Hulk • Dredge
Storm is assumed to be a major presence of the format and while that may have truth to it, that obfuscates how diverse Storm can be. I’ve run into:
This is just a brief smattering of some of the decks I’ve used and run against. Storm may be popular but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be diverse. Whether all of these would last is to be determined in the testing. But at a preliminary glance, I take no issue with Storm with all is diverse forms and am willing to accept that as an aspect of the format. I just gave eleven separate build around cards. Some can be used together but not all. Each provides a different way to approach the archetype. You can definitely argue that there isn’t much archetype diversity (Aggro is virtually non-existent) and I can definitely understand that claim. Frankly, I think a meta needs to exist before such claims can be made. When you cheat out an absurd creature, who do you turn to? When you play a bunch of spells, what do you end up running up to? When you run a bunch of counters? Etc. Not to mention these decks don’t all necessarily run the same finishers. Tendrils of Agony is a popular choice but I have personally utilized Brain Freeze , Molten Psyche , and Thassa's Oracle . There’s also a lot of small decisions that go into deck building and gameplay for each of these shells. Do you opt for slow mana sources (lands)? What rocks do you go with? Should I pitch to counter or spend the rocks? What do I pitch? And frankly deciding on an opening hand is a tough game in itself. People may think the format comes down to luck but if you keep a bad hand in any format, you are liable to get punished. UV just brings the punishment much more swiftly. Playing against slower decks can shift my mindset into keeping less resilient more combo centric hands. Then I get punished on the draw for thinking my opponent might just be slow rolling.
I’m sure there is a ton more work to do. Some of these decks are very meta prone. But I’m sure there’s more beyond this brief foray. I’ve been very pleased with what I have discovered so far. Mind Funeral will thrive in a Moxen heavy combo meta but will fade fast if fair decks like Midrange and Stax take over. Midrange can keep Stax in check but can fall to control. Enchantment prison can really hose combo and Dredge but faulter against D&T and Stax. There’s a lot to be done but I really like what I see. I’m not deluded into believing this is near a viable format yet but I find room to be optimistic.
The one with Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Why waste a slot on that? If you build your deck correctly you can draw 5-6 cards with your first Outcome, and then just snowball from there.
March 21, 2021 9:40 a.m.
Thank you for your insightful feedback and openness, Daveslab2022.
March 21, 2021 1:16 p.m.
I don’t see what’s wrong with Bargain. How are you gonna ensure your Outcome is always getting that? You need redundancy of big card draw effects. Is your that you always start with a handful of Mox and a PO? 1) I literally took that idea off someone else (as happens when communally brainstorming), 2) What would you replace it with?
With no Street Wraith or Gitaxian Probe you should be able to dump 16-18 life into a huge draw. The kind of draw that either leaves you with enough counters to make another turn, or to go off for the win. Hence I double down with Necropotence .
March 21, 2021 1:36 p.m.
Holy hell. Apparently I don’t language. Or proof read. I meant to ask how you ensure that your Outcome is always ready and very often in that 5-6 range and if you expect to have a neatly delivered hand of Moxen plus Paradoxical Outcome ?
Yes, Outcome is a popular engine card. But it doesn’t have the same redundancy as the hand spins. That needs to be made artificially. If you want consistency, that is.
March 21, 2021 2:05 p.m.
I don’t want to make a post for every set as a UV review but I would like to mention when I see cards that could insert themselves into the fold.
So I saw the new Kasmina. It isn’t a standalone powerhouse but goes extremely well with planeswalkers of the format like Jace, the Mind Sculptor , Oko, Thief of Crowns , Teferi, Time Raveler , Narset, Parter of Veils , and Ashiok, Dream Render . I’m not gonna say Kasmina is immediately viable in UV but Kasmina loves friends and these are strong company to keep. SynergyBuild was one of the first I ran into to use planeswalkers in a midrange approach. I’m not sold one way or the other but I definitely think there’s potential to warrant experimentation.
New ‘Liliana’ is intriguing as a Tendrils of Agony that circumvents Leyline of Sanctity and comes attached to all the utility of a solid walker. Whether she can break into UV will largely be dependent on implementing her Tendrils effect. A lot of the utility of Tendrils is lost in UV as most decks don’t really care to set up Tendrils before comboing off. Really at her cost, you’re looking to set her mid combo. But part of the issue there that Tendrils gets around is counters. ‘Liliana’s’ magecraft isn’t online until she resolves and so she may get around the Leyline but folds to the counter. I don’t really see her seeing play in UV but as a Tendrils lookalike, I’ll have an eye out.
March 23, 2021 12:21 a.m. Edited.
I just saw Body of Research from Strixhaven and it seems very akin to Blightsteel Colossus as a control finisher. Not only that but it’s less slot intensive. Big Beaty finishers don’t need all the fancy wording of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn . We just need the tempo of one lethal whack. I’ll be exploring with this card alongside potent tutors like Mystical Tutor with powerful draw spells Ancestral Recall and Brainstorm . We’ll see if Body of Research has the power to make it.
March 31, 2021 5:57 p.m.
I’ve been intrigued by Wandering Archaic Flip as it is very annoying for any counter spells in the format. But this got me thinking of other cast punishers. Mystic Remora , Rhystic Study , and even Nezahal, Primal Tide (of all things) on the top end. If midrange can develop then this may be a bit weaker but it is a potent response to combo decks that presents a clock in a reasonable amount of time unlike the prison decks. Canthese punishers form a control shell in the format?